DSC0330423 March 2017, Kotagiri: Keystone celebrated World Water Day with 24 primary school students from Satyakaathi School and Victoria Armstrong Memorial School in Kotagiri. The students, from LKG to Std V, were central to the programme organised by the Water Resources team. The UN theme for World Water Day 2017 was “Why waste water?” The idea that domestic greywater or ‘waste’ water is actually a resource is capturing the imagination of people worldwide. Some families channel this water into their gardens and save potable water. Others are creating small replicas of wetlands in their backyards and discharging greywater from kitchens and washrooms into them. The wetland plants are specially adapted to absorb nutrients from water and end up removing most of the dissolved matter as the water slowly flows through it.

DSC03311There was a speech competition held for the children on the importance of water and its conservation where Rubini (LKG) and Sashumathi (UKG) stole the show quite early on. Wearing boards with messages of “Don’t Waste Drinking Water” and “Grow Trees, Get Rains”, they spoke eloquently on their topics, even quoting Thirukkural. Other children spoke on various other topics related to water, including its properties. They highlighted the fact that although 70% of the Earth’s surface is water, only 3% of this is freshwater that can be used for drinking. The judges, Anita, Sara, and P. Chandran, were impressed by their confidence and the obvious happiness with which they strode up to speak before an audience of around 50 persons. For many of them, this was the first opportunity to present before an audience outside their school. This World Water Day activity was supported by Arghyam.

After the programme on campus, the children went down the hill to Happy Valley where they saw for themselves, the spring and habitat restoration project. At Happy Valley, the children were joined by local residents and Mr. Vaapu, Chairman – Kotagiri Town Panchayat. Leo, Deputy Director- Keystone Foundation, spoke to them about how the now-reforested section of Happy Valley was a barren land just 10 years ago. A huge community effort in 2006 with three local schools, residents of Happy Valley and Keystone Foundation resulted in the cleaning of the area and planting of more than 1000 saplings in a single day. Currently, there are 430 trees belonging to 27 species native species in the restored area.

DSC03402Since 2006, the restoration site, which is one of the catchment areas for the spring flowing through the valley floor, has been carefully tended to. Periodic cleaning of invasive species were done and saplings that had died were replaced. Leo emphasised that all the trees in the restoration site were native species like Naval, Bikki, Koli and Kolamaavu which actively absorb rainwater and release it slowly over a period of this. As a result of this, the community noticed a significant improvement in the spring flow. The quality of water had improved and, whereas earlier the spring would dry up in summer, now it was flowing throughout the year. The residents moved through the restored area and were happy to see the healthy growth of trees. Everyone present was struck by the difference in temperature inside and outside the restored patch.

Mr. Vaapu said that he was very happy to have been involved in with this initiative when it had begun. He commended the residents for their effort and asked them to ensure that the area around the spring be a trash-free zone. Gokul invited everyone present to reflect on the impact that this small restored area and find other spaces where the Happy Valley model can be reproduced to revive and sustain local water sources.

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